SEBRING, Fla. – Scott Hargrove romped to a convincing victory in this afternoon’s opening round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at Sebring International Raceway. Hargrove, 18, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada., qualified Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s #38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/Bell Racing solidly on the pole position with a new lap record and finished the all-green 12-lap race almost seven seconds clear of his nearest challenger.
Fellow Canadian Garett Grist (#7 DaVinci Foods with Andretti Autosport) drove a fine race to rise from ninth on the grid to second after passing Danilo Estrela (#11 Belardi Auto Racing) on the very last lap.
Hargrove made an exemplary start at the drop of the green flag, while teammate, preseason favorite and fellow front row starter Neil Alberico suffered a mechanical problem and was swamped by the snarling pack of 30 other rivals, all of whom are chasing the prospect of a scholarship to graduate to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2014.
Alberico retired after the opening lap as Hargrove charged in his sophomore season of USF2000, holding a 2.2-second lead by the end of the first lap and never looking back. His margin increased to as much as 7.3 seconds by Lap 6, after which he settled into a comfortable pace and never allowed himself to be seriously threatened.
A fine start saw Estrela, from Goiania, Brazil, move into second place at the first corner with an even better jump from Jason Wolfe (#23 Pabst Racing/Wolfe Trucking Inc.) who vaulted from seventh to fourth. From there battles ensued throughout the field with a constant shuffling of positions.
JAY Motorsports’ Florian Latorre made an impressive debut. The 15-year-old French driver qualified his #91 13th Avenue/MASM-Cogny/Accent du Sud Ouest fifth and took over the third spot at the start, which he held until Lap 7 when he was displaced by a charging Grist. Stefan Rzadzinski of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who fell back to seventh at one stage, rebounded to bring his #93 CanTorque/Christenson Developments/Goldmark Diesel/Calroc Equipment/ Red Line Oil entry home in fifth for JDC MotorSports.
Several drivers had notable runs including Felipe Donato (#51 Top House Design/Inova Mkt/Squadra Kart with ArmsUp Motorsports). The 18-year-old from Sao Paulo earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award for a gain of 10 positions from 29th to 19th, while last year’s National Class Champion Henrik Furuseth, 16, from Oslo, Norway, advanced from 19th to 10th in the #96 Palfinger/Akrene Mek Verksted entry with PRL Motorsports.
A total of eight different teams were represented among the top-10 finishers.
In the National Class Presented by SCCA Enterprises, Alliance Autosport’s Scott Rettich, 28, of Camden, Ohio, put an exclamation point on the start of his season with a solid drive to victory in the #71 PDI Communication Systems/Springboro Car Wash entry.
Additional awards included the PFC Award presented to winning car owners Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and Alliance Autosport; the Staubli Award presented to Hargrove; and the National Class Masters Award Presented by Elite/Comprent to Rettich.
Friday’s Race 2 in support of the 61st Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida will take place at 10:40 am ET. Scott Hargrove, #38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/ Bell Racing (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) – First:
“I am kind of speechless about how the race went. The car was just phenomenal; this whole week has been phenomenal. The Cape Motorsports guys have given me an awesome package. I know Neil [Alberico] would have pressured me a lot and it is unfortunate that he didn’t get to race, but it was nice to be out front for sure and secure maximum points. The Mazda engine was awesome all race and I was just clicking off laps waiting for the checkered flag. Coming into this week I had a lot of confidence from the Cooper Tires Winterfest, and having a win in the regular season means a lot.” Garett Grist, #7 DaVinci Foods/Sofina Foods/Bamford Produce/Bell Racing/Corby Concepts/Alpinestars (Andretti Autosport) – Second:
“We had a really bad qualifying. With the red flags, I just couldn’t get the momentum going but the race was really good. The Andretti guys worked hard all morning to have the car ready. We did a lot of work with the setup and changed several things, and it all came together. I am really happy.” Danilo Estrela, #11 Belardi Auto Racing – Third:
“We started on used tires and I think we were the only ones. We wanted to save our new tires for tomorrow. I had a comfortable second place but I got caught by traffic going into a braking zone and [Garett] Grist made a move. He was really fast. Overall, it was good. A podium is a podium. We’ll see how Race 2 goes tomorrow.” Scott Rettich, #71 PDI Communication Systems/Springboro Car Wash (Alliance Autosport) – First National Class:
“It was a great race for us. The Alliance Autosport team gave me an incredible car and I just kept pushing hard. I was out there a little bit by myself but nevertheless, it was a lot of fun. I was pushing hard to challenge myself and post strong, consistent laps.”